By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein
December 13, 2010
Even in limited release, “The Fighter’’ packed a serious punch at the box office over the weekend. Director David O. Russell’s movie starring Mark Wahlberg as Lowell-bred brawler “Irish’’ Micky Ward and Christian Bale as Micky’s half-brother Dicky Eklund grossed $320,000 in just four theaters. That’s an average of $80,000 per screen and good enough for the third-best limited debut of 2010, behind “Black Swan’’ and “The King’s Speech.’’ (By contrast, Newton native Julie Taymor’s “The Tempest’’ was a box-office bust this weekend, grossing a disappointing $45,000 in four theaters.)
“The Fighter’’ opens in 2,200 screens Friday and is already being mentioned as an Oscar contender, primarily for the performances of Bale and Melissa Leo, who plays Micky and Dicky’s mom, Alice Ward. Not much discussed is the movie’s eclectic soundtrack, which Russell (inset) had to cobble together on a limited budget.
“We had no money for music,’’ the director told us. Fans of Kim Deal’s band the Breeders will enjoy hearing “Saints,’’ and Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry,’’ Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle,’’ and the Dropkick Murphys’ “The Warrior’s Code’’ also make an appearance. But our favorite is Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times,’’ which plays during a montage of Wahlberg training for a big fight.
“It had never been used in a film and I was told it was impossible, that it would cost $1 million to license it,’’ said Russell. He tried anyway, beginning with a call to Cameron Crowe, who’s tight with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant from his long-ago days as a writer for Rolling Stone.
“If you catch Page and Plant when they’re getting along, you’re fine,’’ said Russell. “If you don’t, you have no chance.’’ In the end, Page and Plant agreed to let Russell use the song for a very modest sum, and “The Fighter’’ is infinitely better as a result.